Words: Zoe Binder | Photos: Tim Bardsley-Smith and Zoe Binder

Mists were rising as the field assembled for stage two of the Port to Port. Leaving the Hunter Valley from stage 1 behind, in Killingworth we see the stage begin with a steep 342 vertical metre climb in the first 6kms, conquering the notorious ‘Sugarloaf’.

This sorted the field into a long stringing line of ants up it’s treacherous slopes, and allowed women’s elite race leader Holly Harris to consolidate a strong lead. The men’s elite field were battling all the way up the climb, with a 3 man break of Tasman Nankervis, Brendan Johnston and Michael Potter away.

"On the first climb I was thinking I am feeling really good. I let Tas and Potts lead out and we got a gap on Cam, so I was pretty happy that the form had returned," said Brendan Johnston.

The group had a gap but not a decisive one. Jon Odams and Cam Ivory got back on, along with Russ Nankervis and Jayden Ward.

"Jonny Odams was riding really well and he is so fast on the singletrack and we were just hanging on. It is quite enjoyable to just follow his wheel. We had a group of guys and it was good until the end, where it really opened up," said Johnston.

Ivory has a bit of a local advantage up here and threw some attacks in, but nothing would stick. The group stayed together.

"We are just on the limit trying to get a second here and a second there. That is all there is to it at the moment," he explained.

Johnston agreed, and his finish into the Golf Course lead him to the stage victory. But it was close!

"As soon as we turned off the singletrack onto the fire trails it was full gas, dust everywhere and the power was pretty high for the last couple of kilometres. I normally look at the finish to suss it out before the start but I was a bit rushed and thought we came straight into the finish. Instead we did a big loop around the golf course. Cam went early and gapped me and I closed him down. I thought I better go past and see what I could do and managed to hold him off.” Ivory finished 2nd with Tasman Nankervis in 3rd.

Holly Harris builds her lead

In the women's race, Harris continued to build her lead, riding out of sight from her competitors on the first climb - although Kathryn McInerney wasn't far off until an unfortunate mechanical meant she had a long way to walk.

"I was a little sore yesterday but I came in to this stage feeling really good, really enjoying it. At the start there was a big road climb and then we had some really beautiful single trail. It was really raw and not super padded down and groomed, and that is what I really like. It is really mountain bikeresque trails and it was awesome," said Harris, who has had nothing but a smile on her face so far in this event.

Sarah Tucknott was 2nd in the women's race, and actually navigated the start and first climb before the long road climb the best of all her rivals.

"I was first girl up the climb and then Holly came past me and there was no way I was hopping on her wheel she was just so fast. I ended up staying with Jess Simpson and Penny Slater up the climb and then passed them before we got into the singletrack. From then onward I just rode my own race and went hard for two and a half hours. I have been racing since I was seven or eight and I grew up on single track, so it is my strength so this stage suited me. My aim when I came here was top five, so anything above fifth I am stoked with. I tend to be a bit of diesel and get better as the days go on so I am looking forward to the next few days.”

Jess Simpson came in 3rd, and full results are online!